Good day to the garden. I have been somewhat of a shadow or ghost around here lately but every so often when I do poke my head in I get to experience the wonder and fun of this awesome site. It just so happens that today I get to share a bit with you about one of the folks who make our site so wonderful. Liz Rice-Sosne (aka Old Raven) took time out of her busy schedule to humor me with my oddly placed questions and I have to say I found her to be blast to chat with.
I had grand aspirations of placing a setting on this interview; I saw us sitting on clouds or on the moon or even as animals in the forest who just happened to chance upon one another. But after a bit of thought and the fact that it is thanksgiving I settled on a calmer less outlandish approach. Old Raven is the perfect person to escape to that one empty room in the house and just catch up with while avoiding the really drunk aunt or the overly gassy grandpa after the turkey has been carved and eaten. She will sit there and hold her breath with you trying not to make sound as you both dread the overly chatty cousin who just won’t shut up and is now scouring the house looking for you two. As she passes we both exhale with a smile and settle in for peaceful but reflective moments about poetry, love and life.
Robb: So Raven do you ever write naked? (Perfect ice breaker right? No inhibitions after that?)
Raven: No, but I cook naked
This made me laugh and I knew we were going to hit it off fairly well. I thought it was perfect since this whole day is centered around food for many of us.
Robb: Getting away from the funny stuff for just a moment when did you first start writing poetry?
Raven: Robb … this is going to be easy … I’m not sure that I can remember anything. I know that I dabbled a bit as a kid, not, mind you because I still have the poems to refer to but because I still have my kids poetry books (gifts) in my library. The first time that I became serious … or used the writing of poetry as therapeutic was in 1979. I had been divorced for about 4 years. I wanted to own a house, I did not want a mortgage. I moved to the hood, bought an old brick (1886) house for $5000 (had a 2-yr. mortgage). While there I developed a friendship with a guy across the park. We saw each other every day and night. Neither of us was interested in the other. I was as fond of his girlfriend as I was of him … anyway he did not appeal to me. After two years we were very best friends and knew everything about each other. The girlfriend moved on. He asked me out. Going through my mind very rapidly were thoughts of: “yuk he’s my best friend, ick this is not going to work and holy cr@# I don’t want to insult this man … he really is my best friend. I didn’t know what to say. I thought to myself, dinner, yeah dinner. If we went on a date how would it be different from each night we already share? So, I said yes, just as long as I can pay for my own meal. And by the way this was some really stupid quick thinking because the entire time we dated I paid my own way. Well, long story short (I had been celibate for 5 years for spiritual reasons) we fell in love instantly … but then he got gun-shy and broke it off. Now consider the love thing, it had only lasted maybe a month and a half, easy enough to get over right? But the friendship was a huge loss. It was awful … and as a result I wrote a lot of moribund poetry. Well, until we got back together. It was exceptionally therapeutic and exceptionally bad. Actually I have written off and on for most of my life.
Back in the room we both cringe as something breaks in the kitchen. It is soon followed by a bit of yelling, children scampering and then a short silence. The refuge we have taken up is perfect for now.
Robb: So Raven if you had access to anyone in Hollywood who would play you in a film or biopic about your life?
Raven: Goldie Hawn … but she would need to put on some weight.
Robb: I love the choice and loved Goldie in her earlier years just after Laugh In, as she got older and collagen injections though I was kind of turned off by her lips.
Robb: Most poets have a personal favorite written by themselves, what is your favorite poem you have ever written?
Raven: OMG … totally easy. “Rolling Thunder,” a Vietnam War poem. I have written a number of war poems. These poems all growing out of an experience that changed my life in 2005. This experience first drove me to learn to fly a small airplane and then to study war. From there I worked for two years with veterans.
I remember them.
Large black fins
in 67 & 8.
We’d drive to Kadena,
park the truck
watch them circle
behind the security fence.
All we saw were black
shark fins ... taxiing for take off,
B-52s lined up for Vietnam.
The NVA called them
Three years…860,000 pounds
of carpet bombing.
coming out of U-Tapao,
Anderson and Guam.
They came in threes … Arc Light!
Coming from the 9th, the
22nd, the 91st, 99th, the 306th, the 454th, and
the 461ST, they flew at 50,000 ft,
subsonic speeds, refueled in mid air,
carried 70,000 pounds of mixed ordnance.
Known with affection as BUFFS
Big Ugly Fat Fuckers
Ten, twelve hours in the sky
peeing in a sleeve,
either freezing or scorched while
flying towards hell.
Clear left, limbs seen hanging
clear right, friends seen falling from the sky.
Then, the Christmas Bombings, SAMs brought them down
U-Tapao lost two in mid-air
One in each cell…one on final…the entire crew lost.
As veteran myself I found it to be a powerful poem from an era I am glad I never experienced. It is very crisp and real. The imagery is vivid and I easily remember when I read it the first time on Raven’s blog. I simply had to comment on it.
Robb: I am really amazed by you and the fact that you give your time to others with volunteer work especially the veterans. This just goes to show what a wonderful woman you are. I volunteer myself when I can. Lately it has dwindled a bit but you make me realize it shouldn’t. You may have inspired my New Year’s resolution. Where do you volunteer the most and is there any moment in your volunteer work that really stands out?
Raven: That is very cool. I always love to hear about others volunteer work. For the first time in as long as I can remember I put my volunteer work to sleep so that I could write. I felt as though I was measuring my self-worth by the boards I was sitting on, so it was time to stop. And … it was time to write. The volunteer work that I have always enjoyed most was the work that allowed one to make a human connection with another. In other words NOT board work. I tend to volunteer at only one place at a time because I throw myself into it 100%. Whatever I do … I do because it is a passion for me. And the greatest passion was working with those who had HIV?AIDS in the early years of the epidemic. There was such an exchange of love that it was mindboggling. I was incensed by anyone being refused care because of their illness. I have always been very close to the gay community so it was an excellent fit.
Another thing that I really loved was volunteering with soldiers participating in the creative writing program for them at the VA. I got my masters in 2008 doing my final project with the VA. I learned a great deal. I also saw a great deal of pain.
A loud whoop breaks the sadness of the room Raven and I sit in. This time it’s the roar of the Family Room where all the men gather to brandish their support for football teams who take control of the T.V. once the Macy’s Day Parade ends. We smile acknowledging the sounds of Thanksgiving.
Robb: On a completely way out of left field moment I have to ask. How is your time machine coming along? Once it’s working, where is the first place in time you will visit? (For those who don’t know on her blog profile it says she is building a time machine and me being a Dr. Who freak and TARDIS lover I just had to know.)
Raven: Here’s the problem, well problems. I have used it numerous times already. But, I never know when I am using it. The reason for this is that I cannot seem to make it manifest in the physical world. Or … I cannot find the damned thing. But I still can travel. So I would visit Paris, a place that I know that I lived during the late 1890s and much of the early 20th century. I was friends with many American Ex-Pats and British Ex-Pats too. I wonder if all of those capitols are necessary?
Raven: Write what you feel. And feel, feel, feel. Never let anyone tell you not to feel! Get outside of yourself and enmesh yourself into other cultures. Learn about others. Write it all down and file it away, then go back and pare it down. Well, that last part may not be good advice unless like myself you enjoy poetry that is sparely written.
And if you feel low with any time on your hands … volunteer. There is nothing like doing something for others to make you feel better.
Robb: I find you to be strong confident woman who lives with no regrets. Another aspect I embrace myself would you care to expand on this?
Raven: Well Robb … my thoughts are that if you do not have self confidence by the time you are 65 … I had better hang it up. That said, I know what it is like to have none, to have been raised having none. It is a lot of hard work getting there, but yes, I have it.
I will tell you a silly story. On my 50th birthday I woke up knowing that I owned the world. I looked in the mirror and I saw a golden crown sitting on my head. When my 60th was approaching, well, I knew that it would not bother me a bit. I just knew! As a gerontologist I know a good bit about aging. I have very gray hair that I choose to keep and that goes for the wrinkles too. 60 came and went and I found myself in a terrible funk. And it just kept on and on. Now I have a pretty healthy attitude towards aging. It is one that I have carefully cultivated. But it didn’t matter. It took me about 3 years to accept being 60. I am not really sure, but I believe that the age of 60 for me was that time in my life when I no longer turned as many heads as I was accustomed to doing. I guess what I am saying is that for about three years I felt a large part of my self confidence slip away and sit it out on a shelf. I will say this, it doesn’t hurt having a very supportive mate. I am known for being a tad over the top and he is quite enduring.
Robb: Speaking of significant others tell us a bit about your family. I am aware of Itty Bitty as she graces the home page of your blog but tell us about the hubby and kids?
Raven: I am married to my best friend he is always fascinating, never boring, an incredible husband and lover. What more could I ask for? Aside from Itty Bitty we have Boy-Boy who is her brother, those are our two cats. We have Jack, a coon hound/lab/border collie mix and Patty an Australian Cattle Dog/German Sheppard mix. The four of them rule our lives.
The loud cackle of the drunk aunt is piercing to our ears and starts me and Raven into a bit of laughter ourselves. You have to love the holidays and the events that surround them, all of them the good the bad and everything in between.
Robb: This reminds me Raven before we go back out into the house and embrace the madness I have been meaning to ask you. It says your job is a shape shifter. What exactly do you do and how do I become one?
Raven: Well, lets consider the fact that I am retired first. A shape shifter is one who changes form and becomes something else. I have long been fascinated by and have studied healing, most especially shamanism. Shamanism has always been a male dominated field in the West. It is a practice filled with mystery. But the reality of this practice is that it is not so mystical or mysterious. There are numerous techniques that you simply learn and do.
I can remember not more than a year or two ago lying in bed and deciding that I wished to fly out the window. So here I am in my bed growing this huge Raven head on my shoulders getting ready to fly out the window … but there was no lift off. I guess my head was too heavy. It was then that I realized that I had been a shape shifter all of my life. One does not need to elusively become a frog to shape shift. One needs to be able to change and change again and then again. Shape shifting accommodated my need to move forward in life. It was often necessary for me to leave the life that I was in, often due to pain so I just changed myself. The goal of each change was always to become a better and more whole human being.
I sit here amazed by Old Raven’s words. I was honestly pursuing some farfetched sci-fi belief of her becoming a wolf during the full moon but as consistent with most family gatherings you tend to walk away with some new found knowledge and wisdom passed on to you by wise folks. This was very evident now. We are all shape shifters, growing, adapting changing for and with the world around us. I love the holidays just for these very moments.
Raven and I finally decide we have to leave the confines of this peaceful hideaway and join the turkey throng just outside the door. I am sure after reading this so too will most of you. Enjoy your holidays and thank you for spending a bit of time with us away from the madness.
Should you wish to hide a bit longer here are few things to help avoid the snoring folks splayed out on the couches after their mass tryptophan ingestion. Please visit Raven’s blogs(one’s just starting and one is shutting down):
One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.